Thursday, October 23, 2008

Forgiveness - what is it really?

Posted by Hannah at 2:46 PM

So many times I have read or heard these messages of forgive and forget like God does. To me it seems like they don't wish to confront the sin as mentioned in Matthew. To me its a counterdiction of scripture. I mean which is it? Confront sin or forgive and forget? It seems to me this is handled upon the parties comfort level. If they don't wish to face the abuser - forgive and forget is used. We can forgive and forget as the saying goes if the person turns from their sin, but if they are constantly asking for forgiveness for the same sin? There is no heart change there, and that is what God asks of everyone. It seems discernment needs to be used.

Forgiveness to me is for US and not for anyone else! I see it as God's way of telling us he doesn't wish us to harbor contempt and other burdens that would hold us down. He wants us to let it go, and he asks us to pray for them to help us do just that! Forgiveness is a tool to have a heart change as God would wish us to have. Abusers will ask for forgiveness, and its NOT for them! They use this as a tool to wipe the slate clean, but God is asking for a heart change. He is asking that you turn from your sin, and you truly repent to him first, the person you hurt second, and you do your darnest to turn away from those sinful behaviors forever!

I see many churches adding burdens to the forgiveness that clearly aren't meant to be. It just makes things easier for them it seems, and forgetting tends to enable the sins to continue. If take the consequences away from the sinner do they truly learn? Some way, but most that are not repentive see this as a green light to continue. I mean where is the consequence for their actions? There isn't any! Trust is broken when the sin is always brought upon people, and trust and forgiveness are two different aspects. At times removed trust is the only safe option due to history. God may forget the sins, but we are NOT God!

Forgiveness is for YOU, and not the abuser in your life! Its for the heart change that God wishes us to have.

We are to forgive others because that is what God has asked us to do. The forgiveness is for US, and not for THEM! I think its because it would be easier to let go of the resentment, bitterness, etc. Things God doesn't wish us to hold on to.

The forgive and forget part? I don't buy that either. It enables people to continue to hurt you and others. We are to call out sin, and to stand against it. I think at times people ask you to forgive and forget because they don't know how to deal with it, and its easier to say that then to DEAL with it! If we are to just forgive and forget why would we need the verses in Matthew on how to confront people? lol kind of a counterdiction of either other!

God knows that some will not repent of their wrong doings towards others, but we can continue to pray for them - which God asks us to do. Again I think that helps us NOT hold on to the hurt, resentment, etc. That doesn't mean we would automatically trust the person. I see alot of people almost hint that if you don't trust the person - you haven't forgiven them fully. There are circumstances in which there are very sound reasons for not trusting them, and again I think its a way for people not wanting to get their hands dirty and deal with the uglies at times when they preach the if you have no trust you haven't forgiven!

A good restoration of a relationship starts with the party asking God first for forgiveness, asking for forgiveness towards the party they hurt...and turning away from that sin completely. Where it gets sticky is if they continue to do the sin that caused things, and all they keep doing is asking for forgiveness...and NOT doing any heart work! That's NOT genuine, and we have all seen people that do this. They truly have no drive towards change - they just want forgiveness. At that point they are NOT truly safe to be around. They are NOT a safe person, and yes trust isn't justified. That party sets themselves up for the consequences of that, and they have to learn to live with it also. I do agree that some will pressure you to keep letting go, but they aren't doing the sinner any favors by this guilt. People do learn by others allowing them to fall on their faces, and YES at times losing everything due to their sins.

We can forgive without trusting, and we do this so we don't' harbor feelings God doesn't wish us to harbor! We are NOT asked to forgive only after they other party I have also heard! lol think about how many don't? God wouldn't wish you to harbor things because it would just hinder your walk! People that demand forgiveness so they feel better about sinning against you don't grasp what forgiveness is about. Its not so they can feel better all the time - its so our heart stays where God can continue to mold us to me! Don't wait to forgive those that don't' wish to repent - that only hinders you!

lol I do agree that alot of advice at times does ask you to enable! I don't' quite understand it either at times. I think we grow when living the consequences at times. Humbling themselves is a good thing, and at times falling on our faces can spark that! If we keep forgiving and forgetting it doesn't always happen! We all need discernment when it comes to certain issues. At times you do forget because of the circumstances, and how they have turned from their sin. If they continue in the sin, and you are asked to forgive and forget on a constant basis I don't understand how people grow into better people if they are enabled to continue the sin, and how people seem to think this magical transformation is going to happen is pretty much insane to me. God allows consequences for a reason, and if we take those away..... I mean there are reasons consequences are there to begin with right? Do people seriously think everyone will learn without them? I know I have learned from consequences!

My thoughts on forgiveness!

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My Journey so Far... on 8:15 PM said...

This has been a huge issue for me in the last 20 years of an abusive marriage. My dh used to always say to me, "you never forget anything". It's pretty hard to forget words that are used as daggers to rip you apart. For years and even now I wonder if I just hold on and on and need to let it go. Well, yes, but I have come to the point where I don't equate letting go the same as forgetting.
Just as God allows us to remember how He has worked in our lives in the past so we come to trust Him to take care of us today and tomorrow, I also believe that He allows us to remember past hurts so that we can know that what is happening today has happened before and will continue to happen unless we break the cycle.
Now if only I were strong enough to break the cycle. It's been a long time, but when it's calm and quiet it's easy to resort back to letting things go.

Hannah on 8:48 AM said...

I remember in the bible when David was sitting there looking at his brothers - whom threw him away years before - and he didn't just JUMP down off his throne and start hugging them when they turned up for the food that day.

He had forgiven them, but he didn't forget. I can't imagine the different types of feelings he must have been feeling that day.

A little about me - at times it seems strange that people pressure you to 'forget' things, because they claim you can't get over it if you don't. I don't agree. Remembering to me is protection, and with time you learn how you must protect yourself from people that will hurt.

I remember one dicussion with someone when I placed a 'pretend' situation to her - since people seem to always deal with extremes...I figured I will play their game as well.

She was a very devoted mother, and her family was very close. I asked her if she found out that someone close to her had molested her child, and they were sent to prision for their acts I realize you say you would find a way to forgive them. Correct? She squirmed and admited it would be hard, but YES I was correct!

I asked her if she would forget enough to allow this person to babysit once they got out of prision to SHOW how much she had forgiven?

With abusive people you know they have a pattern, and you may NOT remember everything...but you remember the pattern. 20 years + here, and I know where you are coming from! I may remember some things from time to time, but I don't remember all of it. I do remember enough to realize his pattern. They want us to forget the pattern, because that gives them a clean slate. THat does them no good - even tho they will tell you the opposite.

They have cruel habit patterns, and until they learn to do something about those habit patterns the feelings of needing safety will remain. Recently, I saw a video of a couple - but he turned his life around. He truly repented, and got himself help ..and came out about his abusive nature. She will still bring things up, and he will repent once was part of her healing and HE accepted that! It wasn't done to rub his nose in it!

Its not that she does this all the time, but something will trigger her. Abusers that claim they are better shouldn't mind that, and those that ignore it say 'you never forget anything' as a tool to make you hush.

Anonymous said...

For me, Biblical forgiveness is the decision to not hold the sinner's sin against him by vowing and promising (to myself, but not necessarily out loud to him) that I will not take vengeance against him.
It is not forgetting the sinnner's sin (as in having amnesia that it ever happened)for that would be naive and unwise: it would leave me open to him injuring me again.
When the Bible says God casts our sins into the depths of the sea, it doesn't mean God has amnesia (He is all knowing, after all). It means He promises never to hold them against us since we have repented. But He never promises this for the unrepentant.
When a sinner has not repented, I need to remember his sin in order to biblically confront him with it according to Matthew 18:15-17. If I bury or deny the abuser's sin by a trick of amnesia, how can I confront him with it according to the steps in Matthew 18?
However, while he is unrepentant, I must nevertheless cultivate a willingness to forgive: so that, should he repent, I will be immmediately able to extend forgiveness to him should he ask me for it.
I could not go to heaven if I were likely to be enraged by seeing that God had forgiven the repentant abuser and he was in heaven too.
Since forgiveness is a promise, an act of will, this means it is not the exact same thing as emotions. Emotions can be still hurt, still be angry: Paul acknowledges that we may be angry: "Be angry and sin not." All he tells us is not sin in the way we deal with our anger.
If I still feel distrustful,if I'm suspicious of phoney repentance, if I want to test the depth of the sinner's repentance (as Joseph did to his brothers before reconciling with them)these are not signs I haven't forgiven. Rather, they may be signs that I'm following Biblical principles.It may show that I'm still working on cooperating with the Holy Spirit in my own journey of healing - which involves truth in the inward parts: full emotional honesty to myself.It may also show that I'm learning how best to discern whether an abuser's repentance is phoney or genuine.
In my next book, Biblical Answers to Domestic Abuse, I'll be exploring the issue of forgiveness in more detail.
PS you may like to check out my book "Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion". You can see it on my website.

Hannah on 12:29 PM said...

When a sinner has not repented, I need to remember his sin in order to biblically confront him with it according to Matthew 18:15-17. If I bury or deny the abuser's sin by a trick of amnesia, how can I confront him with it according to the steps in Matthew 18?
However, while he is unrepentant, I must nevertheless cultivate a willingness to forgive: so that, should he repent, I will be immmediately able to extend forgiveness to him should he ask me for it.

I'm not sure I understand all of what you said here.

Sometimes I remember and other things I have forgotten with time. Some were worth holding on to - the memory of them - for good reasons. Other items were removed from my memory banks! I don't know how and why...but they were. I think most of them I had processed, and was ready to leave them behind. It isn't the same as denial that other use.

I remember my father before he passed away came to me with sins against me he wished to acknowledge before he passed away - in a letter. He wasn't asking for forgiveness. He wanted me to know that he acknowledged that he had done this, and it was clearly wrong. Some of the items I remembered, and others I honestly don't. I had already processed what had happened in the past, and moved on to a healthier place by that time. He needed to acknowledge them to me in writing, because I think they were bothering him...and before he died wanted me to know he realized his sin. I know he had already asked God for forgiveness of those sins, and he knew he had been forgiven. He was pushed I think by the Holy Spirit to write me this letter, and it was a sense of closure for him.

I didn't get a chance to respond to him before he passed away. His letter meant so much to me. At his funeral the pastor read a letter to him that I wrote the day after he passed - my response. It had other items in there that I wished to say about him due to the service as well. I remember my mother holding my hand as she heard it. WHen he was finished reading it we turned around, and everyone was crying.

I guess this is to say there isn't a traditional way of doing things all the time. lol I'm sure you know that some people can get legalistic about things as well!

I remember teasing my brother more than once about the annoying habit he had a child of grabbing peices of my games that I was playing with, and RUNNING off with it! He was doing it to be brat, and because that is what younger brothers do! LOL! He didn't need for me to tell him that I had forgiven him for that!

Life is custom at times, and I guess everything can't fit into a neat little box! I think at times people wish to use forgiveness as a tool in their spiritual pixie dust arsenal. I realize people giggle at my phrase 'spiritual pixie dust', but that is how I see it! They want to sprinkle stuff around, and to have people believe everything will be fine if you believe in it hard enough.

If you feel resolution is needed in some form - friends will use the spiritual pixie dust to show you that they don't think you need it. They don't want to go there, so this is their answer to show you HOW to leave it alone!

I wish I had the gift to write as you do! I think that is what the title of my book would be - spiritual pixie dust. Lets sprinkle our opinions, scripture, etc around, and sit back and watch as things magically go away!

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